Len @ Maria Bakker
|First name||Len @ Maria|
|Country of Origin||Netherlands|
|Date of Birth||Len 26/06/1928 Maria 12/07/1932|
|Year of Arrival in Australia||1952|
|Submitted by||Margaret Hunt|
Len Bakker and Maria Kuiper were both from South Holland; Len from Dezilk a small farming village and Maria from Heemstede. Both farming families. Len was the middle son of 8 siblings and Maria was the oldest of 5. Len’s family was very poor and during the war he was employed by his father to help on the farm. Len’s father became very ill and he almost starved to death during the war years. It was up to Len and 2 of his brothers to go out and find food for the family, which wasn’t easy. Maria’s family was better off than Len’s as Maria’s father painted pictures and played some musical instruments which gave the family some money, although Maria also had to go out in search of food and firewood with her father.
In 1949 Len and Maria met although Maria’s father was not so keen on Len when he first met him as Len was at that time in his life a heavy drinker and smoker something he gave up to go out with Maria, that must have pleased Maria’s parents as they married in 1952 and they emigrated out to Australia that year. Len did not like the direction in which Holland was going and he did not like the cold weather – he wanted to find a warmer place.
They sailed out to Australia on the “Johan van Oldenbarnevelt” a Dutch migrant ship. It was a nice ship, the quarters were 15 people to a room, men with men and women and children together. The food was quite good, and to relieve the boredom they played card games, had dancing nights, and they all had a guessing game of who would see land first. It took them 4 weeks to arrive in Australia, where they docked at Fremantle and they were put on a bus to Northam, where they were to stay for the next 6 weeks.
It was night time when they finally arrived at the Northam Holden Camp. Not being able to understand English was a hardship for Len and Maria. All they wanted to do was go to sleep. When they finally were taken to their rooms they did not know what the beds were, to them they looked like a wire gate on four legs, they all laughed when they worked out that these were their beds. They had never seen such a strange bed. The next 6 weeks were spent learning English and getting to know the other people. Maria did not like the large spiders and the snakes, and the flies used to drive them crazy. After 6 weeks Len and Maria set out on their own, Len found work on farms and Maria worked as a cleaner and shearer’s cook. They both really enjoyed this time of their lives as they treated it as an adventure. Maria always wrote letters to her family in Holland and Len’s family as they had no family in Australia. They travelled through Western Australia, and into South Australia where they both settled down in the mid north in a small town of Burra.
Their first daughter Marianne was born in 1954 and their second daughter Margaret was born in 1958. Len worked on a sheep station in Burra for 11 years and Maria worked at the primary school as a cleaner. In 1971 Len moved his family to Adelaide as the two girls were getting older and work in Burra was hard to find. Len found work on the roads, which he really enjoyed and Maria found work in a factory. In Len’s later years he worked at a school as groundsmen which he stayed until he retired in 1993. Maria also worked at the school as the cleaner until 1990.
Len and Maria went back to Holland on 3 occasions but Len would always go under protest as his heart was in Australia and he hated leaving it. They had many trips to Queensland and they were avid members of the Dutch Club in Adelaide. Len passed away in 1995, and Maria lived by herself for the next 15 years. She went back to Holland for the last time in 2002 and she lived in the same house the shared together until her death in June 2010. They had a wonderful life together, they never regretted immigrating to Australia they gave their 2 daughters wonderful childhoods.